So we’re at the Dollhouse, and all the living sex toys – sorry, “actives,” – are in a panic, guys with guns and body armor are scuffing the hardwood yoga floor, and the resident science geek, Topher, is saying this shouldn’t have happened, because, after all, he’s only using a dangerous, untested method for wiping people’s minds and implanting memories and skills instead. How could that possibly go wrong? Well, surprisingly, there’s a rogue active running around – Alpha – and he’s killing people with all the memories and skills he’s not supposed to have any more.
Echo, however, is spared from Alpha’s slasher rampage while all the other actives around her are dropped like snotty Kleenex. In the shower, naked, of course, because hey, let’s not kid ourselves about why we’re here, people.
And that’s how this week’s episode of “Dollhouse” begins, and it’s basically more exciting than everything happened in the pilot episode, so I’d call that a good start.
[The rest of the recap (spoilers included) after the break. Click through...]
Cue the opening montage – I bet they’re saving that lesbian geisha scene for sweeps – and then we’re into this week’s client/inevitable disaster.
Ms. DeWitt talks to the client – lots of hair product, lots of money, really punchable face. I wonder if the Dollhouse runs ads in Douchebags Monthly, or even worse, FHM, because that’s the sort of demo they seem to be targeting. The client has a name, but for reasons that will become obvious, I will instead tag him with a variety of pseudonyms.
So DeWitt is talking to Richie Date-Rape, and explains the whole “active” thing, quicker and more succinctly than anyone did in the pilot last week. (Of course, a network exec would probably require a great deal more exposition... hence the pilot last week.) The guy ponies up the dough and takes Echo out of her box for the weekend.
Echo and Wilderness Adventure Ken engage in some river-rafting and rock-climbing and other outdoor fun. Boyd, Echo’s handler, waits in a nearby van with his driver, who has the life expectancy of a red-shirt on Star Trek.
Cut to Agent Ballard, the dogged colonial officer – whoops, sorry, wrong show – the dogged FBI agent tracking down the Dollhouse even though no one thinks it exists and nobody actually knows what laws it’s breaking, or even if it’s possible to mind-wipe someone. But he’s at the scene of last week’s ep, where Echo rescued the little girl from kidnappers, quizzing another FBI agent. (Romo Lampkin! It’s a Battlestar reunion! Sorry. Won’t happen again.) Ballard points out the obvious clues, while the other FBI agents tell him to stop being so dogged.
Back to Echo’s fun camping trip where she’s looking at an arrow that Mr. Blatant Phallic Imagery holds as he gives her a bow hunting lesson. This is what passes for foreplay with this guy, so it’s off to the tent for sex. Maybe girls do need to be brainwashed to buy this.
Still, you see where this is going, right? He might as well be wearing a T-shirt that says, “World’s Number One Deliverance Fan.” No cuddling, no pillow talk, just an ultimatum: Trail Mix Ted Bundy puts on his International Male tank-top and Chuck Norris action jeans and tells Echo, start running, because in five minutes, I hunt you down. Echo runs.
We cut to a little backstory with Boyd, Echo’s handler. He was hired after the whole Alpha debacle. Dr. Saunders – better known as Fred from “Angel” – is still bleeding during his job interview. We see what happened to Boyd’s predecessor, cut for maximum pain and damage in under 8 seconds. Yeah, Alpha did that. Plus-ten for engineering, minus-500 for the lack of an “off” switch.
Back to Echo’s extremely bad date. Boyd and his driver are distracted by a park ranger, who pulls out a silenced pistol and ends the screen-time of the driver. Shocker.
Flashback again to when Topher meets Boyd. More exposition about how the actives are implanted with memories, and then those memories are wiped, never to resurface again. Except when they do. Like with Alpha. Who was programmed with really vicious disemboweling skills, which, Topher admits, was not the wisest choice.
Back to the present, Boyd is held at gunpoint by Ranger Dick, forced to call Dollhouse HQ and tell them everything is all right. Even though Echo’s vital signs are all going crazy. Boyd actually does something you never see someone in these situations do – he uses the phone to call for help, and then attacks Ranger Dick.
DeWitt and her Smithers, Dominick, argue about Agent Ballard. He’s dogged, Dominick says, and they should kill him. DeWitt is not keen on the idea. She has a point, since nobody outside of Ballard seems to think the Dollhouse even exists. But he’s very, very dogged, Dominick says again, not to mention obsessive, and did I say dogged? Topher interrupts to say things have gone badly awry with Echo’s Girl Scout weekend.
Echo finds a cabin in the woods and actually smiles, because apparently they wipe all memories of horror movies from actives, too. Inside the cabin, she pauses to swig some water from a canteen – sure, that’s what anyone would do first – and then searches for a phone before finding a dead ranger in the closet. Abercrombie & Fitch Mountain Man talks to her through the dead ranger’s walkie-talkie, and yes, that canteen was filled with drugged water. Now Echo is stoned, on top of everything else. He taunts Echo, saying she has to prove she’s fit to survive. As if anyone with a hairstyle like that requires his amount of styling and blow-drying has any right to talk about Darwinism. The drugs trigger flashbacks in Echo, including memories of Alpha’s massacre.
Back to the Dollhouse again, where we get yet more exposition about why Echo trusts and follows Boyd. She’s been imprinted on him, like a baby duck. Meanwhile, Boyd gets to torture Ranger Dick, and looks happy for the first time ever.
Quick cut to Agent Ballard, who has a pretty neighbor who makes him lasagna. Sorry, no time for that, ma’am. I’m busy being dogged, currently about this picture of a girl with a first name and no other information, sent by someone I don’t know for reasons that aren’t clear.
Finally, Boyd finds Echo, only to get an arrow in the gut. After running like a girl all episode, Echo takes Boyd’s gun and goes hunting herself. There’s a stand-off between Echo and Douche Arrow. After a quick test of arrow vs. gun – which I think was actually settled a long time ago – there’s more wrestling, only this time, a little more realistic than Echo’s heavy breathing in the tent. Then Tarzan of the D-Bags goes down with one of his own arrows in his neck.
The REI BTK guy croaks out the only interesting thing he’s said all night: he mentions that his father knew Echo. Then, blarg, dead.
Back to the Dollhouse for the post-game. Echo’s mind gets wiped, and we learn that Alpha is still hanging around, because he killed Ranger Dick after Boyd tortured him. Dominick takes a moment out of his busy day being a tightass to mock Echo. Probably not a good idea, because even Dominick can’t be thick enough to think she’s going to stay a meek little doll much longer.
Definitely picking up the pace from last week, even if the “most dangerous game” was predictable. Now, if the Dollhouse had knowingly sent Echo into that situation, then maybe it could get away with charging what it does. Plus, it would have been more intriguing to see how Echo escaped, and would have given a truly compelling ethical dilemma.
But really, as long as Camp Counselor Dahmer ended up with an arrow in the neck, I’m not one to complain.
What did you think of the second week? Promising? Disappointing?